In the center of our dining table is a simple basket that brings me joy. It is filled with cloth napkins in a rainbow of colors and prints, some made by me, some made alongside my sons.
I grew up with cloth napkins, and we have been using them in our family since my husband and I were married. There is really nothing special about them, the fact of them or these napkins themselves. Except that there is. There is something about these napkins filling that basket on my table that bring me joy and a small measure of contentment (which is no small thing in this busy life).
Two years ago my sons and I began attending a Waldorf-inspired parent/child class. In the act of setting the child-sized table for snack time, complete with tablecloth, place mats and napkins, I felt a sense of dignity and respect. The carefulness and intention of these ordinary tasks struck a chord with me that has continued through the years since. I love the dignity that this simple choice gives to the children and to their space and place in the classroom. There is time for them, there is some small measure of everyday sacredness in the rhythm of setting out each napkin, of clearing them away at the end of the meal and of washing and folding each in turn.
In the chaos of our lives and house last year, I decided to do one small thing to bring some grounding and sense of intention and pleasure into our ordinary days. That basket full of simple, but lovely-to-us napkins on the table reminds me (when I let it) that it is possible to live with care and intention, to lend dignity and ordinary beauty to our lives in small ways each day.
Sewing cloth napkins is an easy project for beginning as well as intermediate to advanced sewers and can even be completed by hand if preferred or a sewing machine is not available. Even better, it is possible to fully include young children, allowing them the opportunity and satisfaction of creating napkins for themselves (with help as needed, especially when using a sewing machine – please use your discretion). My sons are still showing off the napkins they helped make to new guests!
As spring draws near, the air is changing and there is a subtle newness in the breeze, a hint of freshness and renewal to come. It is a time of creation and brilliant colors waiting to bloom. Celebrate the newness and return of bright colors replacing the winter browns and grays by creating your own cloth napkins to bring an added measure of joy, dignity and beauty to your ordinary days!
2 pieces of cotton or linen fabric, 10.5” x 16.5” or larger (fabric can match or be different but coordinating)
Rotary cutter, mat and ruler (optional)
Paintbrush, chopstick, or small crochet hook (to help turn out corners)
Begin by cutting two pieces of fabric to size (10.5”x16.5”). Press.
Lay pieces one on top of the other, right sides together, matching up all edges. Pin both long sides and one short side.
Sew all pinned sides (1/4” seam allowance). Trim sewn corners.
Turn right sides out, using the non-bristle end of a paintbrush, chopstick, or small crochet hook to help turn corners into neat points (be careful not to use anything with too sharp a point, to avoid poking holes in the corners). Press seams.
Fold in 1/4” on open side and pin closed.
Sew around all sides of napkin with an edge stitch (1/8” or closer to edge) using thread in a coordinating color, being sure to secure beginning and end of stitching.
Fold, and your napkin is ready to use and enjoy!
Annie Demko lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and twin boys on a small, historic homestead where she spends her days caring for and playing with her sons, cleaning, cooking, creating, and attempting to coordinate and accept the chaos. She has recently begun blogging about her days and desire to find and celebrate the beauty and value in the ordinary at Moon in the Window.